Study: Nonprofit clinics may be some pets’ only chance of being spayed or neutered

Dr. Emma JohnsonA study published last week found that most dogs and cats seen by nonprofit spay-neuter clinics would be at high risk of remaining intact and contributing to the population of pets entering local animal shelters if not for services offered by such clinics. The majority of these pets are owned by famlies earning less than $30,000 annually and aren’t otherwise receiving veterinary care.

“Characteristics of clients and animals served by high-volume, stationary, nonprofit spay-neuter clinics,” was authored by Sara C. White, DVM, MSc; Janet M. Scarlett, DVM, MPH, PhD, and Julie K. Levy, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, DABVP, the Fran Marino Endowed Professor of Shelter Medicine Education at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine.

The researchers surveyed 3,768 owners of 2,154 dogs and 1,902 cats admitted to 22 nonprofit spay-neuter clinics across the United States in a nine-month period. Their findings were clear: Nonprofit spay-neuter clinics predominantly serve low-income clients and animals lacking regular veterinary care, in addition to animals from shelters and community cats.

“In this national survey, nearly half of the animals admitted to the clinics were unowned cats and dogs from shelters and community cat trap-neuter-return programs, and most of the owned pets had never received something as basic as a rabies vaccine before,” Levy said.  “We owe a debt of gratitude to these clinics that have stepped in to fill a growing gap in access to veterinary care of both owned and unowned cats and dogs.”

The study press release stated:

In their report on the study, the authors speculated that basing access to spay-neuter services on an income verification process may seem invasive to the very clients most in need of services. Additionally, many are not able to document their income or need, other families don’t technically meet a definition of need but still struggle to afford basic care, and undocumented pet owners may hesitate to have their pets sterilized out of fears related to their immigration status. Verifying income and screening on the basis of need also create substantial administrative burdens, including cost and staffing, that many nonprofits cannot meet without adversely impacting the organization’s ability to serve its clients and patients.

Sara C. White DVM, MSc; Janet M. Scarlett DVM, MPH, PhD; Julie K. Levy DVM, PhD. Characteristics of clients and animals served by high-volume, stationary, nonprofit spay-neuter clinics. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association; September 15, 2018, Vol. 253, No. 6, Pages 737-745;